For the purposes of this review series I will be using the trade produced by DC Comics in 2008. All week we will be looking at this crossover. Starting next week, the Saturday retro review will be getting to the DC and Marvel crossovers, which in my longbox is in its own section of the crossovers section. I’m sure we all have our own quirks when it comes to how we file our media. Once my video collection is under control I want to separate the movies and TV shows, with sections for DC and Godzilla, for example. I had that for Transformers at one point, before it all became one big mess.
You’re probably wondering why I don’t review this crossover the same way I plan to the rest. Some may even argue that DC Versus Marvel/Marvel Versus DC was the bigger event, if only for the Amalgam comics and huge fight. There’s actually a big difference. While Versus was a larger story and established a darn interesting mythos involving Access and the brothers it was otherwise a pure fanservice story, larger in scope but otherwise no different from any other crossover story. JLA/Avengers, however, does something a little different, at least according to my memory and having already re-read the first issue, in that it compares how the two universes operate, or at least did until the New 52 came along and pushed the DC Universe fully into Marvel mode, something started before the reboot even happened but now they aren’t ruining previous continuity, just tossing it in the trash.
That’s why I really want to look into this. Also, it’s written by one of my favorite writers, Kurt Busiek, and drawn by artist extraordinaire George Perez. This isn’t just another crossover but a love letter to what makes each universe work and that’s why I want to dedicate a whole week to going over this series. This first part will focus on the external history because it’s rather interesting.
The first crossover between the two companies was Superman Vs The Amazing Spider-Man, which we’ll look at next week in the Saturday spot. Many more would follow, including a second team-up for the Man Of Steel and the Friendly Neighborhood superhero. We’ve already looked at Spider-Man’s first team-up with Batman in an earlier Scanning My Collection article. While both companies have done team-ups with Image or Archie, it’s the DC and Marvel crossovers we most remember because they are the two biggest superhero comic companies, hosting characters that have been in many other mediums from novels, movies, cartoons, live-action TV, newspapers (Spider-Man still has a comic strip), and audio dramas. (Actually, I don’t know if there was a radio series based on Marvel characters.) Combining the two universe’s big superteams is not something they waited until 2003/2004 to produce.
According to Wikipedia (question the source, mind you, since anyone can turn rumor into fact through the power of context), a 1979 idea for a crossover would have been plotted by Gerry Conway and scripted by Roy Thomas. Perez would be the artist on this as well, and why wouldn’t you immediately hire George Perez for this? In the days before Adobe Illustrator or Manga Studio allowed you to combine drawing on separate layers where you could zoom in to get all the details you needed, he could draw every person in the world on a single page completely. I really wish I could have met him at this year’s ComiCONN but between being broke and getting sick that weekend that wasn’t going to happen. I hope he comes back for a convention I CAN make. I would love to ask him how he did that. The story would have involved time travel, Kang The Conqueror (because what other Marvel villain would be involved with a time travel story?) and the Lord Of Time on DC’s end. How similar it is to this story I can’t say, where Gamemaster and Metron are involved as well as Korona, which makes two DC godlike characters versus Marvel’s one.
Work didn’t begin until 1981 and some pages were drawn (which appears in one of the many collections of this crossover–not the one I have, though) but then editorial disputes (Wikipedia claims it was mostly on Marvel EIC Jim Shooter) led to the project being scrapped. I don’t know any details beyond that, but it also scuttled a planned sequel to an X-Men/Teen Titans crossover. In 2002, they tried again, this time with Busiek as the writer. They had considered doing it in the regular books, which would be different to be sure, but eventually they went with the self-contained story instead, thus saving my filing system from being even more confusing than it already is.
Previous crossovers were out of normal continuity since it placed all appearing and mentioned characters in the same universe. While we have seen artists sneak in characters surprisingly similar to characters from the other company, or something like “Buried Alien” who may be Barry Allen, this followed DC Versus Marvel/Marvel Versus DC, the 1996 crossover battle, in keeping the two continuities in separate universes, which would be canon from then on except when it wasn’t. (For example, both Batman & Spider-Man crossovers have them in the same universe, while a Green Lantern/Silver Surfer crossover not only takes place in separate universes, but Access teases the crossover in a Green Lantern cameo even though he isn’t in the graphic novel itself.) I’m of two minds on that. It’s cool to think about the Justice League and Avengers hanging out together or playing a softball game for charity or something but keeping them in separate universes allows their crossovers to be in continuity without worrying about why Superman wasn’t called in to stop the Sentry or why the DC heroes didn’t register with the Superhuman Registration Act, or why the DC heroes get asked for autographs while the Marvels get asked to kindly die for being abnormal. I think it depends on the needs of the story. I doubt Doctor Briar would cross universes to put the anti-psychotic chip into both Carnage and the Joker.
Tomorrow we get into the comic itself. Like Versus, “/” was co-published by DC and Marvel, with which team had top billing decided by which company put out the issue. This trade was a DC published comic so it goes under JLA/Avengers and that’s the title the article series will go with for convenience sake, but two of the issues are Avengers/JLA. It’s the same series, however. And we start tomorrow with the DC team in spot 1 as the multiverse is in peril yet again.